One thing that may be apparent is that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. It hasn’t been forgotten, I just have been involved in various things.
The main thing that’s been occupying my time (other than work and life as usual, obviously) is the Guild Wars 2 Wiki. This is an official wiki that was set up and hosted by ArenaNet, but the content is updated and maintained by players. It is far more informative than many other MMOs I’ve seen. For my part, I’ve been involved mainly with the game release content pages, most recently the upcoming Lost Shores release.
The Lost Shores is the November content release for Guild Wars 2, following on the heels of October’s Shadow of the Mad King release (seriously, the prelude for it began the day the Halloween content was removed). Touted as almost a mini-expansion, there’s such a huge amount of content incoming for this release that I can only think part of it had been started months ago. A new map, a new enemy, a new “infinite” scaling dungeon, a new PvP map, and a full weekend-long event to kick the whole thing off. I’ve been very involved in documenting as much as possible on the wiki, so go take a look for all your Lost Shores info.
There’s a couple things I want to bring up, though. (Only text below, bring your reading glasses, though I promise it’s not bad)
While there’s some controversy with the new item quality being added, I’m not as concerned right now. Ascended is not a tier of power like WoW releases every expansion where you keep having to find better gear all the time. Instead, it’s an item quality level. A new tier would be more when they raise the level cap and suddenly there’s this whole set of gear that’s more powerful and now you have to work to get the more powerful gear to stay at max. Adding a new quality level above Exotic is like adding an item level above Epic in WoW…it doesn’t exactly create a whole new tier, it instead expands the range of equipment available in any particular tier.
It’s also not exactly a gear treadmill, as there’s underlying assumptions in the treadmill that aren’t exactly present, such as difficulty of acquiring the new tier of gear. A treadmill assumes that getting to the max quality of that tier takes a lot of time, making it much more likely that you won’t stay at the top of the gear before it goes higher again. Hence, the treadmill analogy where you’re constantly having to move to keep up. Doing a gear treadmill only by adding new quality levels is counter-productive, as you lose any purpose whatsoever for the lower gear qualities despite having them available at max level. You also start to run out of names, also not a good thing. (Double-secret-Ascended-too quality!)
I understand the concern, and I’m watching them too, but for me…adding one new quality level doesn’t constitute a gear treadmill nor justify the freakout I’ve seen. Adding a second, on the other hand, would…and in that case I would suggest they get their act together and figure out what they’re going to do long-term and communicate it to the player-base BEFORE telling us there’s going to be a new level.
Although I can’t wait for the kvetching when an expansion comes out and they raise the level caps, which they’ve said was being heavily considered by them.
Agony and Infusions
This has also raised a lot of controversy, especially since the Ascended gear is linked with it. Agony is a new condition that doesn’t behave normally (you can’t remove it via condition removal skills), and is a percentage-based DoT. It’s used in the new dungeon in the Lost Shores to help increase the difficulty over time.
However, it’s been quickly associated with the maligned and now-removed Radiance/Gloom mechanics from LotRO. Gloom was a hard gating gear mechanic where, as far as I know, mere proximity to certain raid bosses caused severe debuffs and occasional cowering (kinda like a stun, from my understanding…it’s not well documented even on their wiki). It technically expanded upon an existing mechanic, Hope and Dread, which still exist. What Gloom did was make those bosses cause this existing functionality to be harder to deal with. “Radiance” was the counter effect, lowering Gloom’s (and therefore Dread’s) effect so you could actually fight the bosses. It was widely hated and is now removed. In this argument, Gloom is the same as Agony and Radiance is the same as a new upgrade meant to lessen the effect of Agony called Infusions.
The argument being made is that there’s functionally no difference between Gloom and Agony (and therefore Radiance and Infusions), and they work the same way as this extremely hated mechanic and should be squashed before it ruins this game. I disagree though. Gloom caused additional Dread, which is a pretty bad debuff on you. It lowered damage output, healing received, max health, skill power, and increased damage received. Above a certain point, it also essentially stunned/dazed you, and the full effect was gotten by all players merely by being near the mob (i.e. fighting it). The only counter whatsoever was using the Radiance/Hope mechanic, forcing players to get a lot of this new stat to avoid Gloom’s effects via gear and consumables.
Agony, on the other hand, is just damage. It’s a lot of damage, but it’s just damage. That’s it, no debuffs. We have no idea if players are automatically stricken with it or if it’s targeted by mobs like most conditions. While Infusions are supposed to counter it, players can also counter it by being healed. That makes it pretty significantly different, since skilled players may be able to avoid it or lessen its effects without having a certain amount of Infusion already. I don’t see it as the same, except at a level so high that so many other things can also be considered the same…and that just defeats the purpose of the argument anyway.
It exists purely to add another variable to the increasing difficulty of the dungeon as you go farther in. In fact, I can see possibilities that turn it into more of a strategic resource utilizing offensive infusions to increase your damage output, transfer agony to your target to actually kill them fast enough, and more. This is a far deeper mechanic than Gloom/Radiance ever was, IMO, and the fear is more due to lack of understanding and knowledge (which ArenaNet has decided to leave until the content is released…for better or for worse).
Basically, I think the doom and gloom on this is very overblown, and the success of this content depends more on how well the ArenaNet designers utilize these tools rather than the existence of them in the first place.
In the end though, if you focus on these two issues over anything else, you’re missing out on so much. So go enjoy the Lost Shores content. There’s a ton of it and it looks to be a lot of fun.